Anna Polezhaeva, House of Peoples of Russia: “Language is the main factor of our identity”

Anna Polezhaeva

Anna Polezhaeva

Almost 200 nationalities live in the Russian Federation. Each of them has its own history, traditions and language. How to preserve this originality and uniqueness? And at the same time maintain a common identity within one country? She spoke about this in the Komsomolskaya Pravda studio at VEF-2023 Anna Polezhaeva, head of the House of the People of Russia.

– Tell us in general what the “House of Peoples of Russia” is, is it a physical building or some kind of virtual house. And what does your organization do?

– Several answers can be given here. First. We are a structure under the Federal Agency for National Affairs, and we are implementing the strategy of the state national policy. This is our basic function. Secondly, we are a creative young team that works in Moscow. And thirdly, we have a practical platform for implementing our ideas at the federal level, this is the “House of the Peoples of Russia”, which is located in the Morozov estate in Podsosensky Lane. The federal national and cultural autonomies of the Russian Federation work and live together in the House, like true members of the household. Their leaders are mostly members of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations. That is, this is the space of state national policy actors, where we all work together on the agenda that the state sets for us.

– What is the main agenda of interethnic work?

– Acting together, thinking as one country is our main motto and basic principle of work. Example – tank “Alyosha”, everyone knows about him, they’ve read about him. There were no nationalities in this tank, there were guys of different religions, representatives of different regions of the Russian Federation, but there was a motive, there was a level of thinking, united by common meanings.

– In the Far East and the Arctic, one of the frequent topics is support for the indigenous peoples of the North. What kind of work do you do here?

– This is a traditionally important topic for state national policy. Since its formation, the Federal Agency for National Affairs has been involved in issues of sustainable development of indigenous peoples. We learn from them. Indigenous peoples are an important component of our society; they are people whose basic principles force us to pay attention to the topics of environmental management, love of nature, spirituality, and love of the Motherland. Because we all know about the reindeer herding detachments, which during the Great Patriotic War performed the function of state protection. When we talk about forms of support for indigenous peoples, we ourselves gain much more from this. At the same time, when a dialogue about indigenous peoples is being built, I believe that it should be based on their needs.

– What are their needs and priorities?

– Language topics are an immutable factor in development. This is the top-level factor of our identity. This is our culture, communication, our manifestation in the world in general. Language is also a way of thinking, access to a certain history, the culture of our ancestors. This is expressed in language, in writing, in fairy tales in the native language. Therefore, supporting language projects is very important. The House of Peoples of Russia has a center for studying the languages ​​of the peoples of Russia. This is both an expert platform and a space for direct language practice.

– What is the main difficulty in supporting the languages ​​of small peoples? How can the government help here?

– As with all the best things in society, it comes from the family. Therefore, a personal determination for each person who participates in this process. For example, a decision on multilingualism, that the family traditionally uses the native language. And only then comes support at the regional level. When, for example, public events begin with greetings in the native language, poems and fairy tales are read, and events are held that popularize the language. Then the language lives. For example, yesterday at the section that was devoted to the issues of sustainable development of indigenous peoples, representatives of the largest companies made greetings in their native language for the peoples living in the territory where they operate. This was top-notch, it created an atmosphere and showed a very important element of the companies’ respect for indigenous peoples, who pay great attention to environmental issues. This always creates a dialogue between companies and indigenous peoples about environmentally friendly production.

– How, in your opinion, can we maintain a balance between studying the Russian language and national languages? It turns out that we need to develop both. How to find the golden mean here?

– When we talk about national policy in the country, two years ago, for example, to a greater extent, in perception, national policy was associated with the fact that we clearly demonstrate the cultures of peoples. But that was two years ago. And today, when we interpret national policy as a unifying bond, when we stand shoulder to shoulder on the common tasks of the state, then we must understand that now is not the time for individual manifestations. The first phrase of our Constitution: we are the multinational people of the Russian Federation. And no one ever calls us to the fact that our ethnicity or our multi-level identity should fade into the background. But today we ourselves make this a priority, because it is important in geopolitical terms. We emphasize that the Russian language is the same spiritual bond, it is a top-level task for everyone today, especially when in a number of, say, unfriendly states it is oppressed in some way. And when we held Russian Language Day at UNESCO headquarters on June 6, thanks to the collective request of the CIS countries, this is such a basic factor of protection on the part of national policy, which stands on the principles of promoting Russian identity as a stronghold of many truly important values ​​in the world.

– What about indigenous languages?

– Here a second, no less important vector of work opens up. If we see a stable understanding in the first point, then a person develops access to his socio-cultural needs, and that this is his internal development, this is the development of his community, this is what concerns individual responsibility for his native language. Representatives of indigenous peoples are brave defenders of their culture and history, so I have no doubt that tools will always be built to protect this ethnocultural right – language. And then we need to break down this task into the functions and tasks of the state, into a list of priorities, and determine those activities that are necessary in the short term. For example, if we are talking about unwritten languages, then music libraries of unwritten languages ​​must be quickly organized.

– Is it possible to outsource some of these tasks to artificial intelligence?

– Digitalization of indigenous languages ​​is now a state priority. It includes features such as converting the indigenous alphabet into digital format. So that they appear in keyboard layouts. This is an important task. And we also work in a creative format. This is, for example, working with the Yandex.Translator service so that it can translate basic set expressions into the native language. This is both an element of the image task and an applied, understandable function associated with translation. Therefore, the more partners we have from among digital platforms, the better and easier it will be for us to carry out this work. And all this will work for everyone, for the general culture of our society.


The Eighth Eastern Economic Forum is taking place in Vladivostok from September 10 to 13, 2023. The motto of the forum is “Towards cooperation, peace and prosperity.” The organizer of the event is the Roscongress Foundation. Komsomolskaya Pravda is the official information partner of EEF 2023.

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